[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [Bug-gnupedia] Public Domain Content

From: Jon Babcock
Subject: Re: [Bug-gnupedia] Public Domain Content
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 21:38:45 -0700

Jimmy Wales wrote:

  Project Gutenberg has done a heroic job of making available an astounding
  amount of public domain content.  My hat is off to them.  We have considered
  hosting some of their stuff at Nupedia, and we still might...

  HOWEVER, this is a good place to point out that none of their stuff
  (well, almost none, anyway) belongs in an _encyclopedia_ proper.  It
  probably can and should be hosted or at least linked, whenever it is
  discussed within the encyclopedia.

  For example, an article on Aristotle could link to all of his works.
  But all of his works don't belong *inside* an encyclopedia.  That's
  not what an encyclopedia *is*.

This underscores the localized understanding, the cultural
perspective, that is bound to influence the definition of what the
project is, almost at every turn. 

When I first think of an encyclopedia, I think of either the
Britannica that my dad bought for us in the mid-fifties, in spite of
the high price, or of the largest of encyclopedias, the Yong Lo Da
Dian (Eiraku Taiten, in Japanese reading) of the Ming Dynasty in
China. It was composed of 22,877 rolls (a 'roll' is like a long
'chapter', perhaps producing 30 - 90 pages in a current English
translation).  The interesting thing is that this encyclopedia, as
well as most other traditional Chinese encyclopedias, unconstrained by
an incessant need to identify sources, or to attribute every sentence
to an individual, and placing no value on the idea that the expression
of a thought was something that could be *owned* by an individual,
quotes extensively verbatim, leaving the short summations, and added
commentary as but a small addition to the article. Unless the source
is very short (less than a page, for example) it quotes only certain
chunks, much like we use "<snip>" in email, but without any indication
of a lacuna. The encyclopedia makers were mainly editors, like film
editors, that attempted to give a reader the essence of the subject
through the use of carefully chosen snippets from the greatest
writings on the subject to date. So the primary workers on a
encylopedia were editors, those who mainly classified and cut the
original material.

(BTW, the Yong Lo Da Dian was lost; only a mere 500 odd volumes
remain, some of which I used to spend hours reading (or merely
admiring) at the Far East Library of the University of Washington in
the early sixties when I had only been studying classical Chinese for
a few years.)

Note: What are called encyclopedias in English, are called leishu in
Chinese. Shu means 'writings' and lei means 'classify', 'classified'.
The beauty of the traditonal Chinese approach is that instead of
getting one man's current opinion of a big subject (except in the form
of a terse summation), you get a very tightly edited 'anthology' of
the key portions of every important document related to the subject,
often arranged chronologically.


reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]